Words are power. Words can bring us great joy or great pain, as proven with last week's unparalleled events. Words can also determine our future. When I wanted to raise my SAT score, my father gave me some sage advice - Learn more words! He was right.
From that moment, I’m been a hopeless word nerd. I love them. I keep files of cool words and will text myself ones I come across when reading for further reflection. I’ve been known to look up words in the middle of the night, which means I must dream about them. Yes – Word NERD! I love anagrams, puns, and word etymology. And French words and phrases...don’t get me started! Nothing is more fun to drop in casual conversation. Must be a je ne sais quoi thing.
So for January, I thought it would be fun to write about Janus words. A Janus word is a contronym or a word with two opposite meanings. Appropriately named after the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two opposite faces, Janus words are spelled the same but function as auto-antonyms.
- Bolt – to secure OR to run away
- Clip – to separate OR to join
- Fast – firmly fixed OR moving rapidly
- Left – to leave OR to remain
- Oversight – inadvertent mistake OR watchful care
- Rock – to be firm OR to sway or tilt
- Sanction – to allow OR to prohibit
- Screen – to display, such as a film OR to conceal
- Trip – To dance or skip OR to stumble
- Weather – to endure OR to erode
So get two-faced and create some juicy sentences with Janus words. Or add to the list. In the interim, reflect on this sentence: “Because of the teacher’s oversight, the students’ behavior was sanctioned.” This could be interpreted two different ways as a result of the Janus words oversight and sanctioned. Either way someone ran a tight ship or got off scot-free. How I loved that latter kind of teacher.